The nation’s highest court will likely hear arguments to determine whether the front-runner for the GOP nomination can continue in the race after ruling on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump is ineligible for the White House under the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause and removed from the state’s presidential primary ballot.
It is the first time in history that a presidential candidate has been disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment thanks to the ruling of a court whose justices were all chosen by Democratic governors.
In its 4-3 ruling, the court stated that “a majority of the court holds that Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.”
The highest court in Colorado reversed a district court judge’s decision, finding that Trump incited an insurrection for his involvement in the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, but holding that he could not be disqualified from the election due to the ambiguity surrounding the provision’s application to the presidency.
The court postponed making a ruling until January 4th, or until the US Supreme Court rendered a ruling in the matter.
The majority of the court stated, “We do not reach these conclusions lightly.” We acknowledge the importance and gravity of the questions that are currently in front of us. We also recognise that it is our grave responsibility to uphold the law, free from fear or favour, and unaffected by the opinions of the general public regarding the choices that the law requires us to make.
Trump’s legal team had pledged to promptly appeal any disqualification to the highest court in the country, which has the last say on constitutional issues. His campaign declared that it was preparing a rejoinder to the decision.
Colorado was a 13-point loss for Trump in 2020, and he won’t need the state to win the presidency the following year. The risk for the former president, however, is that additional election officials and courts will decide to follow Colorado’s example and bar Trump from states where he needs to win.
By January 5, which is the deadline for the state to print its presidential primary ballots, Colorado officials say the matter needs to be resolved.
In an attempt to disqualify Trump under Section 3, which was created to prevent former Confederates from entering politics after the Civil War, dozens of lawsuits have been filed across the country. It has been in effect since the decade following the Civil War and prohibits the removal from office of anyone who took an oath to “support” the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it.
The plaintiffs have won in their first case, which is in Colorado. District Judge Sarah B. Wallace concluded after a week-long hearing in November that Trump had, in fact, “engaged in insurrection” by instigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6. However, her decision to retain him on the ballot was largely procedural.
Wallace was persuaded by Trump’s attorneys that since Section 3 refers to “officers of the United States” who swear to “support” the Constitution, the president—who isn’t listed as a “officer of the United States” anywhere in the document—must not be covered by the language because his oath is to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution.
The clause also states that all offices “under the United States” are covered, including senatorial, representative, and presidential and vice presidential electorates. The presidency is not mentioned.
The highest court in the state disagreed, siding with the lawyers for six Republican and unaffiliated voters in Colorado who contended that it was absurd to think that the amendment’s framers, who were afraid of former Confederates regaining power, would forbid them from holding low-level positions but not the nation’s highest one.